A Unified Whole

Scripture cross-referencing

It’s fascinating the way one passage in the Bible refers to another. For example, God encouraged Joshua, Moses’ successor, to give attention to what Moses had written (Joshua 1:7-8).

Centuries later, King Josiah listened as Moses’ writings were read (2 Chronicles 34:14ff.). And Daniel consulted the book of Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2).

In response to Satan’s temptations Jesus cited three passages from Deuteronomy (Matthew 4:1-11). In visiting His hometown synagogue Jesus took the scroll and read from Isaiah where His ministry was prophesied by Isaiah some seven centuries before (Luke 4:16-21; see Luke 24:25-27, 44-47).

As an Ethiopian court official was returning home from Jerusalem, he was reading from Isaiah 53. God sent Philip the evangelist to meet up with him, “and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:26-35).

The Gospel of Matthew cites passage after passage from the Old Testament, as do Paul, Peter, and the author of Hebrews.

What’s especially interesting is that we also find references in the New Testament to other parts of the New Testament. Peter refers to the letters of Paul as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul is apparently quoting from both the Old Testament and a book in the New Testament (Deuteronomy 25:4; Matthew 10:10 or Luke 10:7) and refers to both as Scripture.

So what’s the point?

Why all this cross-referencing? God’s word, written over many centuries, is a mosaic. Each part contributes to the Big Picture. In His sovereign wisdom God was directing the whole process of revealing and preserving His word for us.

The Holy Spirit empowered the forty or so authors of the Bible to write what God intended (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Therefore what we have is a unified whole and is God’s inspired word to us today.

If the Bible is simply a collection of human documents, then how can all this remarkable interconnectedness be explained?

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Straight Ahead

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Whoever had the idea of painting stripes down the middle and along the sides of the road did a tremendous service to travelers! The stripes help us avoid veering left into oncoming traffic or drifting to the right and going off the road.

If we see the value of definite boundaries on the road, and if football cannot be played without specific sidelines and yardlines, are there established boundaries for life?

Guidelines for Israel

As Joshua faced the weighty task of leading Israel after the death of Moses, God told him, “. . . be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7).

Years later as Joshua was facing the end of his life he urged his people, “Be very firm, then, to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left . . .” (Joshua 23:6).

Centuries later it was said of King Josiah, “He did right in the sight of the LORD and walked in all the way of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2; see also Deuteronomy 5:32; 17:20; 28:14; Proverbs 4:27).

Guidelines for us

Israel had the Law of Moses to keep them on the path. We have the example of Jesus and His teachings in the New Testament. As long as we keep focused on Christ and His word we will move forward.

Just as highway stripes cannot protect a distracted driver, so God’s word keeps us on course only if we use it as directed..

Sad to say, many Christians today are not holding the course. They have veered off into immorality or indifference or false doctrine or other pitfalls along the way.

In driving, a moment’s inattention can be fatal. So also with our traveling the road to life.

“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it . . . . how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1, 3).

Drift. Neglect. Totally avoidable–if we pay attention.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Check It Out!

Time and again the spell-check on my computer has alerted me to a misspelled word.

Imagine, though, a computer for religious writers and for preachers preparing their sermons, equipped with a doctrine-check and a heresy-detector. If the writer commits a theological error, the computer beeps a warning.

Sounds unbelievable? You’re right. There’s no such thing—as far as I know.

But what if there were? Can you imagine trying to program a doctrine-check applicable to everyone? Would there have to be a different program for each denomination? And since many churches have liberal and conservative factions, would there have to be a doctrine-check designed for each?

Is there a standard?

Who has the authority to say what is true doctrinally and what is false? Is there a right and wrong? Or is it all relative? Does each of us have the freedom to decide what to believe? Is there no standard?

Paul writes, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).

Also Paul warns, “. . . there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:7-8).

If there is no doctrinal standard, then what Paul says here makes absolutely no sense.

How do we determine the truth?

Even Paul was subject to a doctrine-check. When he preached at the Berean synagogue, the Jews there “were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Note the measuring stick the Bereans used to determine if what Paul taught was the truth.

Whenever we hear sermons from the pulpit or on TV or radio, and whenever we read articles such as this one, let’s do a doctrine-check, as the Bereans did: “to see whether these things were so.”

If what is taught matches up with God’s word, let’s believe it.

But if it doesn’t . . . .

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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I Was Going by the Wrong Standard

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“I wish they’d just leave it alone.” Have you ever heard anyone say this regarding Daylight Savings Time? It certainly can be a hassle, but do we really have any choice, unless we want to be out of sync with all those who do change their clocks twice a year?

“Spring forward, fall back”

Saturday night I dutifully set our clocks back one hour for the end of Daylight Savings.

But the trouble was, I did it a week too early. I was going by my pocket calendar that said it was time to change the clocks, so I did.

The trouble was, I was using a 2006 calendar to prevent having to buy a new one for the current year. Since both 2006 and 2017 began on a Sunday, I figured it would do just fine.

The trouble was, the date to fall back had been changed since then to the first Sunday of November. I had forgotten that.

As a result, I missed Bible class. A week early and an hour late.

So what lesson can we draw from my slip-up? Simply this, I was going by the wrong standard and didn’t realize it.

More wrong standards

Do people ever go by the wrong standard in religion? All the time.

Such erroneous standards include:

  1. Old Testament laws which are no longer in force, now that we are under the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:4-18; Hebrews 8:6-13)
  2. Additional writings purported to be divinely inspired and accepted as equally authoritative with the Bible (Proverbs 30:6)
  3. Religious traditions which are of human, not divine, origin (Matthew 15:1-9)
  4. Pronouncements by religious leaders who claim to speak directly for God (Jeremiah 23:25-32)
  5. One’s own subjective feelings (Proverbs 3:5; 14:12; 28:26; Jeremiah 10:23; 17:9).

And that’s not all! With so many different standards, is it any wonder that division prevails?

But God’s word unites all who hold to the Scriptures as their only standard, neither adding to nor taking from.

This is “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).

Next spring I’ll be more careful.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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A Practical Parenting Tip from Paul

One young man

Timothy had a good reputation (Acts 16:2). Years later Paul could say of him, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father” (Philippians 2:20-22).\

What had molded Timothy’s character? Certainly Paul had a part, but as he wrote Timothy, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.”

“. . . from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15; see Acts 16:1).

Another young man

How different Timothy’s upbringing was from that of the young man described by Arlie J. Hoover: “A student who was an agnostic once told me that his mother deliberately raised him with no ideals, no values. She told him when he was very young, ‘I am not about to make you conform to my values. I just want you to grow up for yourself, make your own mistakes, search out the truth on your own, find your own worldview and life values.’

“This all sounds so sweet and reasonable and tolerant to most ears, but if you analyze this notion carefully it falls into a pile of nonsense” (“Toleration and Relativism: A Crucial Distinction,” Firm Foundation, 3-21-78: 181).

Conclusion?

Timothy had a mother and grandmother who taught him the Scriptures. Is it any wonder he turned out so well?

Do you suppose this just might still work today?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Over Our Heads?

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They just didn’t get it!

It’s remarkable how often what Jesus said went right over the heads of His hearers.

When Jesus was talking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, He offered her “living water” that would deeply and permanently satisfy, unlike the H2O she drew from the well.

Her response? “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw” (John 4:13-15). By “living water” Jesus meant the Holy Spirit imparted to believers (John 7:37-39).

When Jesus’ disciples returned from buying bread, they urged Him to eat. Jesus replied, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” The disciples assumed He meant literal bread, but then Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:31-34).

So often Jesus and His listeners were operating on different wavelengths. Since His words were so frequently misunderstood, was He then an ineffective communicator?  As the Master Teacher, He was aiming to elevate the sights of His listeners from the mundane to the spiritual, from the earthly to the heavenly.

He refused to dumb down His message. He was trying to make people think—something many of us would rather not do.

Note this interchange: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Those who heard Him say this thought He meant the Jerusalem temple, but as John explains, “He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (John 2:19-22). It finally clicked!

When we finally get it!

Jesus’ statements are all the richer as we understand them in the context of the Big Picture of the great plan of God. Our faith in Him can be strengthened as we think through His words until a light comes on in our minds, and our faith grows. Those “Aha!” moments are priceless!

I once heard a highly-educated and accomplished man say that in all the various fields of study he had pursued, he has found none more challenging than the study of the Scriptures. How true! There’s more than enough there to keep us occupied for a lifetime.

This is but another evidence that the Bible is what it claims to be: the inspired and living and powerful word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

As a result of its divine origin, for nearly 2,000 years it has been transforming millions of hopeless sinners into the likeness of God’s Son.

Can you think of any other book that could do that?

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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“I Think . . . .”

During her last semester before graduating from high school, Amy took a course in the New Testament. Probably not too many public schools offer Bible classes, but hers did.

Opposite approaches

At various times during the semester the teacher would ask what the Bible says about such and such. One male student tended to respond by saying, “Well, I think . . .” and he would give his opinion.

Among the issues discussed were whether one can fall from grace and whether baptism is essential to salvation. This student did not offer much if any Scripture as the basis for his assertions.

About once a week Amy responded to his “I think . . .” by saying, “The Bible says . . . .”

Good for her! She knew that what we believe must be Bible-based—and she had studied enough to be able to say, “The Bible says . . . .”

How many people twice her age can do that? Or three times her age?

Why we believe what we believe

Many people simply inherit their beliefs from parents without question, or they uncritically accept what some preacher says.

Bible study takes effort. Are we prepared to invest the time and energy required?

Also, if we discover we’ve been taught wrong, will we change our thinking to conform to Scripture?

What if we discover from our study that God expects us to make a major change in our lifestyle? Are we willing?

Or what if accepting biblical truth means we will face opposition from family and friends? Will we go with the truth, regardless?

What Bible study involves

To be effective, Bible study requires that we: 1) love the truth, and 2) diligently search the Scriptures (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12; Acts 17:10-12).

The goal of Bible study is not simply to accumulate knowledge but: 1) to learn what God expects us to do so we can do it, and 2) to share what we’ve learned with others (James 1:22-25; Ezra 7:10; 2 Timothy 2:2).

People like Amy are in the minority. Many don’t know what the Bible says. Many don’t care.

So, Amy, keep on saying, “The Bible says . . .” and you’ll enlighten those who love the truth as you do, but who also need your help to find the Way.

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